On the back of CCS Europe’s one-year anniversary, we take a look back to what has proven to be a breakout year for CCS.

After 15 years of inaction, we have seen a groundswell of policy developments around CCS in the last 12 months. When CCS was starting out, there was not so much as a legislative proposal on the table, never mind a legally binding target for carbon storage. Fast forward to today, and the progress made to put CCS on the agenda is demonstrative that Europe is serious about reaching carbon neutrality.

Developing storage capacity

The crowning achievement of the past year was the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA). This proposal – adopted in March last year – came to dominate the conversation when it came to CCS, with good reason. For the first time in 15 years, a legislative proposal included dedicated support for the technology and provided concrete solutions. By introducing a 50 million tonnes (Mt) storage capacity target, and mandating oil and gas producers to contribute to that objective, the Commission proposed to address the stalemate between capture plant and storage operators (the famous chicken and egg dilemma) and kickstart CCS deployment throughout Europe. Thanks to the efforts of the sector and the co-legislators, the NZIA came to include support for CO2 transport, making it one of the first tangible efforts by the EU to provide certainty to emitters that they will be able to transport and store their CO2.  Whereas NZIA is entirely focused on boosting the EU’s manufacturing base, CCS is the only technology to have received support for its deployment on top of its manufacturing, showing the unique challenges the sector is facing and the importance of addressing them.

Industrial Carbon Management Strategy

If the NZIA was a crowning moment, then the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy is surely the jewel in the crown. It marks a turning point for CCS in the EU. Beyond the description of the technology ‘indispensable for climate policy’, it provided the kind of framework that the sector has been sorely missing. The Communication points to concrete policy actions that the Commission will take to support the development of CCS in the EU, from transport to carbon removals and innovation. This document is the culmination of over a decade of work, largely driven by industry and NGOs who have seen the need for a comprehensive strategy for CCS. The document itself showed clearly where the Commission felt there are gaps in the current policy framework and provides a clear understanding of where it is likely to act in the coming years. However, we should remember that this communication marks the beginning, rather than the end, of the journey to Europe’s CCS-enabled net-zero future. It does not address all the issues faced by industry, and further work will be required to ensure a successful deployment of CCS in Europe.

The national dimension

In the midst of conversations in Brussels about the role of the Commission in promoting CCS, Member States have been working on their updated national energy and climate plans (NECPs), presenting their draft over the course of last year, in preparation to deliver final versions to be published at the end of June. Many Member States have given scant attention to CCS, but some have displayed encouraging signs of leadership in taking the technology forward, such as Denmark and the Netherlands. Further discussions will be needed about the role of Member States in the rollout of CCS, but it is good to see positive signals from the likes of France and Germany who are working on their own CCS strategy and revisiting their position on the storage of CO2 respectively.

Looking to 2040

In February, the Commission set out its vision for the future, as it presented its 2040 Climate Target communication. While non-binding in nature, this document will set the tone of the debate for what the EU needs to achieve to reach net-zero. Naturally, we were particularly interested in how the Commission would tackle the issue of hard-to-abate sectors in this context. Overall, the Commission called for an ambitious 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and identified distinctly CCS as a key element to get us to that point. This provides a clear vision of where the EU needs to be heading by 2040, and an undeniable signal to investors that CCS will be a major part of the climate toolkit.


In the span of a little over a year, the European CCS community has gone from being left to its own devices to having:

  • A concrete plan on how scale-up will be encouraged through the ICMS
  • An obligation for storage capacity to be developed in the EU under the NZIA
  • A clear vision as to how CCS will contribute to the overall climate policy in the 2040 Climate Target Communication.
  • Increasing support from Member States

The last 12 months have brought CCS to the fore, with unprecedented policy support and the EU’s first project developments breaking ground. However, this is only the beginning of the road, and CCS Europe will continue pushing for more in the coming mandate.  The measures planned within the ICMS will take years to develop and will be in themselves insufficient to address the many challenges facing CCS. A business case for investment in CCS is still lacking and insufficient financial support remains a barrier to a viable market. The EU took a very positive step in the past 12 months, but we are still behind where we need to be. Only through decisive action can we bring ourselves on course for net-zero by 2050.